In mid-March 2017, Friends of Nelson released the Steep Slope Report by Blackburn Consulting Services, which concluded that “Dominion has not adequately identified those soils and landforms that are prone to debris flows (and) landslides.” The report also states that “the potential for debris flows in the very steep mountainous portions of Nelson County is underestimated by the reports submitted to FERC by Dominion.”
For ease of reference, we list below links to the Steep Slope Report and related materials:
Steep Slopes Study by Blackburn Consulting:
Comments on the DEIS by consultant Dr. W. Lee Daniels (he is at Virginia Tech. He also did consulting work for the MVP):
Comments on the DEIS by Blackburn Consulting/Soil Foundations (the guy who did our steep slopes soil study):
Joyce Burton’s comments to FERC on why the DEIS is deficient and misleading, with the unexamined impacts to Roberts Mountain as a illustrated case-in-point, comments inspired by the extremely narrow ridges during the Steep Slopes study (see photo above – top of ridge is only 40 feet wide and the ACP requires a 125 foot right-of-way for construction):
If built, the ACP could mar the beautiful, unfragmented viewshed of the southern end of the proposed 90,000-acre Shenandoah Mountain National Scenic Area that stretches from Rt. 250 north to Rt. 33 on the western side of the Shenandoah Valley. The currently unspoiled area, proposed to Congress for National Scenic Area designation with the endorsement of many organizations and businesses, would no longer look as it does in this wonderful photo of Shenandoah Mountain from Reddish Knob (© Brad Striebig, used with permission). A new utility corridor across the Braley Pond area and Hankey Mountain would:
- diminish scenic beauty
- degrade popular recreational resources
- fragment core forests
- damage wild brook trout streams
- industrialize a major gateway to the scenic area
A permanent corridor of this magnitude could degrade the natural and scenic characteristics of the proposed National Scenic area to the point where it could jeopardize its viability for Congressional designation. Although the Natural Gas Act requires FERC to assess impacts to scenic areas and recreational trails, the Draft EIS for the ACP does not consider impacts to this special area.
The Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition has created a new Story Map: Proposed Shenandoah Mountain National Scenic Area and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Explore the Story Map for in-depth information about the Scenic Area and the effect the ACP would have upon it.
A lengthy March 20, 2017, Richmond Times-Dispatch article, “Testimony, correspondence, show friction between Dominion, U.S. Forest Service, over pipeline permitting,” discusses the many ways in which Dominion has repeatedly failed to provide information requested and required by the U.S. Forest Service, information relevant to Dominion’s proposed pipeline through steep slope areas of the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests. But despite Dominion’s failure to respond to Forest Service requests, during a U.S. Senate committee hearing on energy infrastructure last week a top Dominion official complained about the Forest Service’s slowness in responding to Dominion’s application!
A February 22, 2017 letter to Monongahela Forest supervisor Clyde Thompson from James Thompson, a West Virginia University professor and specialist in soils and land use who has been contracted by the Forest Service as a third-party reviewer for the pipeline project, discusses in detail Dominion’s failures. Teleconferences with the Forest Service on November 21 and December 8, 2016, and another on February 17, 2017, were planned as opportunities for Dominon to present their proposed “Best in Class” Steep Slopes Program and solicit Forest Service feedback. At none of these meetings did Dominion provide any specific or targeted information that would allow the Forest Service to properly evaluate Dominion’s proposal. Further, the analyses and documentation from Dominion does not include data or information derived from the Order 1 Soil Survey previously prepared for National Forest lands along the route. Professor Thompson also notes that Dominion is not making available to meeting participants the documents and data critical for discussion of agenda topics until less than 24 hours before the scheduled teleconferences!
Read Professor Thompson’s letter here and the Richmond Times-Dispatch article here.
Remember that the Forest Service is requesting public comments on the authorization of the ACP on National Forest lands and on the proposed amendments of the Land and Resource Management Plans (LRMPs) that would allow the ACP to be constructed across the Monongahela and George Washington National Forests. For instructions on how to comment, see our January 10, 2017, Web page posting.
Two live videos made by Louis Candelas Moncivias at the March 19, 2017, ACP FERC DEIS Comment Party in Nelson County:
The Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (DPMC) released a new story map this week about the major problems with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC’s) draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s (ACP’s) route through the National Forests. The report highlights seven major issues with the DEIS and provides information on how you can help protect our National Forests by submitting a comment to FERC that asks the Forest Service to deny a Special Use Permit that would allow construction of the ACP through the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests.
The DPMC has identified seven problem areas in the DEIS for the ACP:
- The request for an amendment to the forest plans for the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests would lower standards for soil retention, water quality protection, harvesting old growth trees, crossing the Appalachian Trail, construction of roads in a Scenic River Corridor, and the maintenance of scenic integrity.
- The construction of the ACP and its many access roads would result in significant loss of forestland and increased forest fragmentation. A total of 2,406 acres of core forestland would be lost in the National Forests. This impact cannot be mitigated.
- The DEIS fails to acknowledge and address the many endangered and sensitive species that will be negatively impacted by the ACP. The DEIS only identifies five species that would be adversely affected, but the US Fish & Wildlife Service has identified 30 federally threatened or endangered species, 2 designated critical habitats, 1 proposed species, 5 proposed critical habitats, and 6 species under review for federal listing that are known to occur along the ACP route. Furthermore, forest fragmentation or slight shifts in the route of the ACP could negatively impact many additional species. Many of the biological surveys for special species may not be completed until September 2017; therefore, survey results are not included in the DEIS. The DEIS is thus incomplete with regard to impacts to sensitive species and cannot inform the Forest Service regarding its decision to issue a Special Use Permit.
- The ACP will threaten water quality in pristine streams and rivers in the National Forests. The ACP and it access roads would cross 58 streams in the National Forests, including 26 native brook trout streams.
- The ACP route passes through high-hazard areas with steep terrain that would be prone to severe erosion, landslides, and harmful stream sedimentation. The DEIS identified over 100 possible slope instability hazard locations along the proposed ACP route. The Forest Service asked Dominion to provide detailed plans for 10 high-hazard areas with steep slopes, unstable soils, and problematic bedrock types, but, due to Dominion’s lack of a timely response, this information is not in the DEIS.
- The proposed use of Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) to cross the Appalachian Trail at the Augusta County–Nelson County line poses a substantial risk of failure and environmental damage, given workspace limitations and the topographic and geologic characteristics of the proposed drilling locations. The Forest Service has stipulated that its issuance of a permit for the ACP to cross National Forest lands is contingent on the successful completion of the HDD under the Appalachian Trail.
- The ACP passes through some of the most scenic locations in the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests and would destroy the scenic integrity of these areas. The DEIS states that the ACP would not meet Forest plan standards for scenic integrity and thus would require a plan amendment to bypass the standards.
You can help protect our National Forests by submitting a comment to FERC that asks the Forest Service to deny a Special Use Permit for the ACP and reject forest plan amendments. The DPMC encourages you to submit comments that emphasize that the DEIS is incomplete, inconsistent, and incorrect and does not provide adequate information for Forest Service decisions.
You can submit comments to FERC through FERC’s online comment system or send written comments to the following address:
Nathaniel J. Davis, Sr., Deputy Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street NE, Room 1A
Washington, DC 20426
Be sure to use the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s docket number CP15-554-000 when submitting your comment to FERC, whether you submit electronically or by mail. The deadline for comments to FERC regarding the ACP on National Forest lands is April 10, 2017.
For more information on how to send comments to FERC, please visit our FERC page. To view the DPMC’s excellent story map (which contains much more information that the overview presented here) in its entirety, click here.
Some Nelson landowners with property either on or close to the route have been contacted by Dominion’s contractors to ask for permission to inspect their buildings and/or wells. Friends of Nelson believes Dominion is trying to amass pre-construction data so that if landowners later complain that their foundations have cracked or their well is no longer producing as much good water, there will be a basis for comparison.
Although we recommend that people consult with their own lawyers about whether to allow these inspections (which are separate from the pipeline surveys authorized under VA Code 56-49.01), attorneys at Appalachian Mountain Advocates have said that they see little downside to allowing the inspections: if Dominion has a record from their own contractors that the water supply was good before the pipeline, it will be harder for them to shirk responsibility if wells go bad during/after construction.
However, we are also recommending that people INSIST on getting a copy of the report. That way, if there is anything that indicates existing problems, or somehow seems incorrect, they can arrange for re-testing with a different contractor on their own in order to confirm/refute the results.
Indeed, Friends of Nelson recommends that folks who are concerned about potential impacts to their water source get well-documented, baseline water data NOW. Then, if the pipeline is actually built, they should continue to monitor during construction and for a period afterwards.
With the support of Friends of Nelson and a number of other organizations, an excellent guide to water supply monitoring has been produced by Downstream Strategies. The guide is nearly 50 pages; note that the actual “How To” of monitoring starts on p.22, and there is also list of independent consultants that landowners can hire to do the work starting on p. 36.
If you have questions or want further information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org; give us your phone number so we can call you back.